SOUTH ASIA: THE CRICKET'S FINANCIAL POWERHOUSE

SYED FAZL-E-HAIDER
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Feb 21 - 27, 20
11

South Asia is considered as cricket's financial powerhouse generating nearly 70 percent of the sport's world revenues. Cricket is the most popular game in South Asian countries. A great financial bonanza is associated with ICC World Cup 2011, which will be co-hosted by India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka between February 17 and April 2.

The mega event certainly promises higher profits on what basis South Asia actually beat a joint bid by Australia and New Zealand for the 2011 event. The world cup governing body ICC is expected to spend around $50 million on the event, while the 43-day tournament is already assured of a healthy balance sheet even before the first ball is bowled. Experts believe that there is nothing bigger in the world of cricket than the World Cup, particularly when it is held in the subcontinent evoking immense passion and excitement than any other region on the globe.

"We assured them a profit of 400 million dollars," AFP reported Bindra, a chief architect of the Asian bid and an adviser with the ICC, as saying. "No one can make money for cricket as India can."

ESPN-Star Sports network, who already paid a $1 billion to be the ICC's official broadcasters from 2007 to 2015, are hopeful after they received a positive feedback from several big sponsors like Pepsi, Sony, Nokia, Maruti Suzuki and Philips. ESPN-Star Sports have syndicated the coverage to 200 networks around the world, with all the 49 matches to be broadcast live in the High Definition (HD) format for the first time.

The ICC has moved its headquarters to Mumbai to ensure smooth and timely preparations for the mega event for India has been allotted the highest number of matches.

India will host 29 of the total 49 planned matches including the all important grand final at Wankhede stadium in Mumbai and one semi-final as well. Sri Lanka will host 12 matches while the first time nation Bangladesh has been given the opportunity to host the tournament opener along with eight other matches. A total of 14 teams are taking part in the 43-day long mega event, which include four times winner Australia, two times winners West Indies, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Netherlands, Canada, Ireland, England and Kenya. Pakistanis are scheduled to play their first World Cup pool fixture against Kenya at Hambantota, Sri Lanka.

The first Cricket World Cup was held in 1975 in England. The first three tournaments were also known as Prudential Cup with the sponsorship of Prudential plc, a financial services company. The Cricket World Cup has come a long way since it was first held in England in 1975 with eight teams contesting just 15 matches over five playing days. Clive Lloyd's West Indians earned 4,000 pounds for winning the inaugural tournament, and took home 10,000 after retaining the World Cup four years later.

When Australia won their third successive title in the Caribbean in 2007, they carried home $2.2 million, while losing finalists Sri Lanka pocketed a cool $1 million dollars. World Cup contenders are set for a financial bonanza with a record prize money of $8million on offer for cricket's latest showpiece event. It marks a rise of three million dollars from the previous 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean, which itself was a five-fold increase from the 1999 edition in England. Though initially the cricket world cup captured the attention of hundreds of spectators, it has now attracted millions who are eagerly waiting to watch this year's tournament.

Pakistani games makers have reportedly once again displayed their unmatched talents in the world and indigenously designed a game without any support of government. The games development company is likely to attract millions of dollars amid wildfire fame in the coming months.

Mindstorm Studios, a Pakistani IT game company has reportedly developed an Official Game for the ICC 2011 Cricket World Cup. The game, "Cricket Power", is the most advanced 3D browser cricket game developed to date. It features all 14 official teams along with official players, stadiums and kits, and is played directly in the browser. The game is powered by a superior cricket engine at its core, coupled with a pick-up-and-play interface to appeal to casual and core gamers alike.

There is a craze for cricket in South Asia. Cricket has gone beyond being a national phenomenon to a more global or trans-national one. In the inaugural match of the 2004 Champions' Trophy in England, not a single advertising billboard was from a local company. Every company advertised was from the sub-continent. And, South Asia, despite being a late and tardy entrant in the contest to win the rights to host the 2011 World Cup, was eventually a runaway winner. Finally, World Cup ticket sales pointed to the class differentiation across South Asian diasporas of the world.

The fortunes of the South Asian cricket teams encapsulate the story of post-colonial South Asia. Cricket provided a global forum for Pakistan and India to demonstrate talent and spirit, and defeat more advanced nations, such as England and Australia.

Cricket played with equally fervent passion on both sides of the border has the power to be an instrument of peace. It can bring the two archrivals to the negotiating table for resolution of bilateral issues. Modern cricket is truly a trans-national phenomenon, which obsesses the cosmopolitan global South Asian who transcends the geographical boundaries of the nation.

Cricket is still wildly popular in South Asia in an era of computers. Millions of youngsters across south Asia can be seen in streets playing cricket during the cricket world cup. For fans around the world, the all-consuming love of cricket in south Asian nations is a joy to see street cricketers playing everywhere.

An article, 'South Asia's cricket obsession', published by BBC News in December 2006 said, "Cricket, religion at home and a symbolic flexed muscle in the international arena, is thus South Asia's best-known brand name. Cricket for South Asians across the world provides a space where all differences are overcome. The assertion of an Indian or Bangladeshi identity globally, expression of cultural nationalism or feeling of emotional commonality are all rooted in cricket...In recent times, Bollywood and cricket have emerged like the ubiquitous Indian curry that is fancied as an authentic flavor of India the world over."